Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's Fix the Sex Offender Registry

What do you imagine when the term "sex offender" creeps into your casual conversations?  A child molester?  A rapist?  A creepy guy with a van and a mustache?  I won't lie, I'm just as guilty of such stereotypes, and that makes things even more difficult, that someone like me can still shudder when the term "sex offender," is mentioned.

This all goes back to something I remember from college.  There was an article about how the police had apprehended a "sex offender" from nearby SUNY Potsdam because he had child porn on his computer.  Now, I was put into school early, and thus I was 17 when I went to college.  Since this particular student was a Freshman with a similar late birthday, the most reasonable guess was that the kid had a few risque pictures of his high school (or possibly even college) girlfriend.  I never found out any more details which is a problem in itself, that this kid can have such an ugly term attached to his name without any information being presented on how serious the charges were.  But the bigger issue is that being guilty of being young and stupid with a digital camera is a far cry from being forty and trolling the playgrounds for prepubescent ass.  There is almost no differentiation among sex crimes.  Sure you can go online and figure out what a registered sex offender was convicted of, but how many people take the time to do that, let alone be able to understand what the legalese translates to?

People fail to realize that the net for sex crimes is actually a pretty big one.  In addition to the clear evils of rape, molestation, and pedophilia, one can be convicted of a sex crime in certain states if they:
  • Visit a prostitute.  (Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia)
  • Urinate in public.  (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont)
  • Are a teenager and have sex with another teenager.  (19-13 not so good.  17-16, not so bad.)  (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin)
  • Flash or streak.  (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia)
That there is little to no distinction between types of sexual offenses is not the only problem, but it is the root.  The Human Rights Commission's 146 page report from 2007 also claims that the registry is excessive in duration and allows everyone to access it instead of limiting it to those whose jobs are to ensure public safety.  I can agree in principle, but I' not going to shed any tears for a child molester or a rapist on those latter two.  I will however shed many for the 16 year old that's a registered sex offender because they had sex with their 15 year old partner.  What makes it even worse is that states are required to register children as young as 14 for crimes deemed sexual offenses.  Why punish those that the laws are supposed to protect?  No, it all goes back to the lack of distinction.  (And as an aside, doesn't it seem dumb to consider children age fourteen mature enough and knowledgeable enough and responsible enough to be convicted of a sex crime, but not mature, knowledgeable, or responsible enough to actually have sex?  Who makes these fucking laws?)  What makes it even mind numbing is that several states have restrictions regarding where a person can live, typically in relation to children, or places where children congregate.  This might be alright if they applied to those who commited offenses with children...but they don't.  Instead they apply to all registered sex offenders whether their crimes involved a child or not.  Again, who makes these fucking laws?

Jameel N. wrote to the Human Rights Commission:

When people see my picture on the sex offender registry, they assume I am a pedophile.  I have been called a baby rapist by my neighbors; feces have been left on my driveway; a stone with a note wrapped around it telling me to "watch my back" was thrown through my window, almost hitting a guest.  What the registry doesn't tell people is that I was convicted at age 17 for having sex with my 14-year-old girlfriend, that I have been offense free for over a decade, that I have completed my therapy, and that the judge and my probation officer didn't even thing I was at risk of reoffending.

And that isn't even the worst story.  People have been killed or killed themselves because they were forced to register as a sex offender for something stupid and the laws are so black and white.

Like I said, I have a hard time mustering any sympathy for those that have committed legitimate violent sexual crimes.  As much as the violence against them, and being forced to relocate based on proximity laws suck, they are guilty of irreparable despicable acts and should suffer for them.  But beyond that, the system is clearly broken.  What can be done about it?

  • Restrict the registry to those convicted of violent sex crimes, i.e. rape, abuse, or assault.
  • De-retardify the statutory rape laws in every state.  Some states allow for sex among minors if the age gap is small enough.  There is no reason for a 45 year old fucking a 12 year old to be considered the same thing as a 17 year old fucking a 16 year old.
  • Public urination and streaking...really?  Really?!  I hate this country...
The HRC's report, which is where the information for this entry came from, can be found here.

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